Archived Voice Articles

Worship and chapel defined

By Marcus Roskamp('06)



Cliff Bajema, campus pastor, has served at the University of Colorado, Kent State University, and the University of Wisconsin, establishing and building campus ministries. He has pastored several CRC congregations and worked closely with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Bajema is at Dordt for one year to help revise the position of Campus Pastor and to address the worship atmosphere on campus.

What is worship?
Very simply, I think worship is a corporate experience where Godís people come together before the face of God to receive a word from him and to respond. God can speak through songs, proclamation, reading of scripture, and various liturgical moments such as the assurance of pardon, call to confession, and reading of the law. The people respond through prayers, songs, litanies, confessions, professions of faith, offerings of themselves and of talents and gifts. I also think that fellowship should occur in a worship context.

You mentioned some of the different elements of worship. How do you see the role of these different aspects of worship?
If we pay attention to the biblical models of worship and biblical prescriptions of worship, we will do as scripture says in Acts 2: ďThey devoted themselves to the apostleís teaching, the breaking of the bread, the fellowship, and the prayers.Ē Already there you have an elementary liturgy. You have four elements of worship that include teaching, consideration of apostolic tradition of Godís Word, breaking of bread, which was a precursor to the sacrament, and devotion to fellowship and the prayers. When they say they devoted themselves to fellowship, that wasnít just exchanging handshakes and hugs and waving at each other in the congregation; it was far more substantial. People had a sense of connection with each other and a sense of responsibility for one another. This came to expression in worship.

In his weekly chapels, Pastor Cliff Bajema focused on

In his weekly chapels, Pastor Cliff Bajema focused on "New Life in Christ."

Another part of worship was ďthe prayers.Ē For the early church, I take ďthe prayersĒ to mean that there was already a collection of prayers that came from the apostles, from Jesus, from the prophets, the Psalms, and from people like David and Moses. Today in individual or small group worship, we break into spontaneous prayers, and say whatever is on our minds and whatever is in our thoughts. That is fine, itís personal. In more formal, corporate worship contexts, some have a time of prayer requests. People say ďMy Aunt Minnieís got cancer, my Uncle Charlieís in the hospital, or this person is unemployed.Ē The preacher then prays for that. But that likely isnít what was going on in the book of Acts.

Was it more than that?
Absolutely. I think it was the collection, the reading, the sharing, the collective memory of Godís people, of the prayers they had received from the apostles and the prophets. In other words, they were sharing scriptural prayers with each other. What I have seen happen in prayer in worship contexts in evangelical churches, in which I would include the CRC, is that prayer has become largely petitionary, largely intercessory, largely need-based, and largely spontaneously-offered and collected. Not a lot of attention is given to memorized scriptures and prayers of the saints; and that is where I think the liturgical churches have a much better handle on prayer than we do.

How are you working to bring those elements into worship at Dordt?
We are going through the various physical and emotional stresses of the student body in the context of worship. We are including a lot of prayer in chapel, but prepared prayer based in the scripture.

Do you think it is necessary to have all of these elements in a worship service?
I donít think that all of those elements always have to be present. That is why I donít have a problem with Praise and Worship here at Dordt. Praise and Worship is a pretty reduced version of worship, limited almost exclusively to music, instrumental and vocal, and almost exclusively to praise and adoration. I think that is a very valid dimension of worship. I am blessed by going to it, although I am one of the few adults that shows up there, and I think that is too bad. I wish more faculty and staff would avail themselves of these other opportunities of worship. But I think it is going to be up to your generation to bridge that gap. I think that the way that you invite more of my generation and younger back into worship with you is through a sensitive discovery of blended worship.

What do you mean by blended worship?
I mean by blended worship that you seek as diligently to connect to the traditional as you do to the contemporary. Second, that you seek to blend the various elements of worship where possible in a more appropriate and a more intentional way. Not every worship service has to be exactly alike, but there should be something that connects them, and to me that is Scripture, which gives us the guidelines for what worship is. For example, the element of prostration is something I personally embrace. The Greek word for worship means to be prostrate, to cast yourself down before the face of God in praise, wonder, awe, and humility. When God tried to show us what he was like in Christ, he gave us a regular human being in all of his physicality. This seems to imply that there should be a physical dimension to worship.

Another part of worship is praise. Young people are paying a lot of attention to that, and they should. Maybe itís because we adults are so afraid of becoming sizzling pentecostals that we allow ourselves the sterile type of worship that has become our custom. I am not for that. But at the same time, there is more than praise. I went to a theology class recently where students used various creative presentations to put some flesh and bones on various Psalms. One of the presentations was a Psalm of lament, for which some of the students did a very powerful video. Where do you hear the lament in worship?

You usually donít.
No, you donít. And yet there are many Psalms of lament. Isnít lament part of our life? Donít we have sad things happening to us, and arenít there terrible tragic things happening in the world? Do we know how to lament with each other? Do we know how to cry with one another? To me that is part of blended worship. We need to bring the variety of emotion and experience and all that we are in humanity, not just this gush of praise. There is so much we are missing.

Do you think that Dordt is moving in that direction with their worship?
I think I see some signs of that in Praise and Worship and in GIFT. Students are open to change although it will not happen overnight.

What is your vision for chapel?
I think chapel has to be a time of worship; it has to be a time, very simply, when we encounter God in the midst of our day, and listen to him and respond back to him through prayers, music, litanies, contemporary and traditional expressions. We need to eliminate announcements and eliminate solicitations from outside groups and advocacy by various ministries. Itís not that those arenít valid ministries, but students were voting with their feet by not coming to chapels featuring outside groups. They were saying we want more intentionally planned chapels. So this is being done, not only with a variety of instruments and musical accompaniment, but also through thematic integration. We are thematically structuring and intentionally planning chapel, so that it has its own worship culture.